I have asked a similar question here, but I'm not just interested in oblique intention, especially as that seems to be case when it is known to be virtually certain to occur (so that the answer is no).

This page says that

However, if D believes that it would be impossible to hit V, then its hard to say that he intended it. After all, is it not impossible to intend the impossible?

I assume that is the case, please correct me if it isn't.

What if, though D believes it is possible, D doesn't know that it is, so that the belief is not firmly held and cannot be justified? '

Suppose I have no evidence that someone is listening to me talk to myself (I am mad), but I suspect, perhaps even believe, that they are. I certainly do not know that anyone is. If I have the actus reus for a hate crime, then do I also have the mens rea?

  • 1
    For professing that your aren't interested in oblique intention, that's a very oblique question... Apr 5 at 0:57
  • ok i can be more direct if you need @MichaelHall
    – user66697
    Apr 5 at 0:57
  • 1
    If the motive is to injure, and injury occurs as a direct result of actions taken to inflict said injury, how could D not be held responsible? You aren't presenting any compelling reason that it might not be so. Apr 5 at 1:00
  • i am not trying to convince anyone @MichaelHall i thought motive and very different to intent?
    – user66697
    Apr 5 at 1:01
  • How are they different in this example? Apr 5 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


Belief is not equivalent with intent in law.

Where the required mens rea is intention, it is intention that must be proved, not mere belief in a state of the world.

However, certain beliefs can themselves be relevant to the issue of intent.

For example, evidence that X held the belief that a particular powder could kill a person, when combined with evidence that X put that powder in a person's drink, could be significant evidence of intention to kill. This is the case even if it were to turn out that the powder is innocuous.

And to answer a question in the comments about how motive and intent are different in criminal law, the Supreme Court of Canada has explained:

In ordinary parlance, the words "intent" and "motive" are frequently used interchangeably, but in the criminal law they are distinct. In most criminal trials, the mental element, the mens rea with which the court is concerned, relates to "intent", i.e. the exercise of a free will to use particular means to produce a particular result, rather than with "motive", i.e. that which precedes and induces the exercise of the will. The mental element of a crime ordinarily involves no reference to motive. ... For example, D intends to (a) put poison in his uncle's tea, (b) to cause his uncle's death and (c) to inherit his money. We would normally say that (c) is his motive. Applying our test of "desired consequence" (c) is cer­tainly also intended. The reason why it is considered merely a motive is that it is a consequence ulterior to the mens rea and the actus reus; it is no part of the crime. If this criterion as to the nature of motive be adopted then it follows that motive, by definition, is irrelevant to criminal responsibility—that is, a man may be Iawfully convicted of a crime whatever his motive may be, or even if he had no motive.

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